How to Manage a Rebrand: Staying Focused, Keeping Organized
The rebrand is an activity that will elicit all sorts of emotions in the heart of a CMO. There may be excitement and optimism about the prospects for change and growth. There may be fear and anxiety about undergoing the process and the risk of not getting it right. And, of course, everything in between.
A rebrand is a major endeavor and one that typically carries high stakes for an organization. You want to make sure your team is aligned for the task ahead. We can’t remove the feelings that come up with a rebrand but we can help make the process smoother with a simple plan to stay focused and organized.
Here’s a simple structure for embarking on a rebrand:
1. Have a clear vision
Many of us get the itch to do a rebrand when things get older or feel stale or we hear one comment that makes us question everything about our brand. Sometimes we just want a new creative project that might be fun. Regularly reflecting on your brand is important but thinking a rebrand is necessary for every little issue is not going to help anything.
When it comes to a rebrand, you need to have a clear purpose about why you are rebranding. Typically companies rebrand because of ownership changes, a new product or market direction, improving a damaged reputation, or simplifying an outdated or confusing name.
There is no perfectly right or wrong answer but you need to truthfully answer the question “Why are we doing this?” with something meaningful.
Good answers include things like:
• “We need to align our image to our new company direction.”
• “Our current brand fails to communicate what we do.”
• “We need to recover from major bad press.”*
Bad answers include things like:
• “A board member doesn’t like the green.”
• “I don’t know.”
• “It just needs an update.”
*If you find this to be a reason you need to rebrand every few years, consider addressing your fundamental operations and not just your name or logo. You don’t want to be like Academi (new name from 2011), which was formerly Xe (2009-2011), and before that, Blackwater.
With a clear purpose articulated you can move forward to planning and building your new brand.
2. Research, research, research
We can’t overstate the importance of research. You’ll want to dig deep to learn as much as you can about your current brand and its strengths and weaknesses.
Talk to your stakeholders
Talk to your employees, your customers, and your partners. You want to know what they think of your brand, concerns they have, and questions they raise. Use surveys if you have a large number of stakeholders and follow up with some for focus groups or more in-depth interviews. We recommend the survey engine from one of our customers, SurveyMonkey, for these surveys. You want a combination of quantitative and qualitative data to best understand your current position and opportunities for a change.
Review your competition
Don’t let your competitors be the sole driver of your strategy but look at them to understand how you fit in the industry and what openings you might have for a new direction. This is a good time to engage in a SWOT Analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) to learn more about your competitive position. Exploring the Opportunities will be important as you build your new brand story.
Don’t forget Google
You don’t want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) with an agency and work to create a beautiful new brand only to find out that it’s suspiciously close to another company and you might be facing trademark violations if you go to market. Or maybe Googling your new proposed name brings up something like Urban Dictionary. You don’t want to have your new brand be an embarrassment from day one. Do some searches, including reverse image searches with a proposed design. You never know what you might find.
3. Audit your resources
Your brand lives in a lot of places, including places you may rarely think about. Your website, packaging, and social media accounts are obvious but what about directory listings? Assembling all of your brand assets together not only helps you better understand your current brand but also gives you a clear map of all the places your new brand needs to reside. The list will be long and include areas such as website, social media accounts, business cards, email signature blocks, letterhead, signage, all marketing collateral, packaging, invoices, sales material, legal documents, and many more.
Ask your team to track down all of the assets and get them in one place. This is a good time to introduce a digital asset management (DAM) system, if you don’t have one already. A DAM system keeps everything in one place and organized for your team and all other stakeholders. Adding metadata to the assets makes them findable and usable for this part of a rebrand and, more importantly, for when you move forward with your new brand.
4. Build your new brand story
Your vision lays out where you want to go, your research shows where you are, and now you’re ready to build your new brand. The Design-Thinking Process can be useful in this regard. With setting your vision and doing your research, you’ve accomplished the first two steps in the design-thinking process - Empathizing and Defining the problem. Now you can move on to the next steps: Ideate, Prototype, and Test.
Work with your team and branding agency (or in-house group) to come up with ideas. Leverage the research you’ve done and the clear vision you’ve stated to build options for a new brand.
Expand on the ideas with workable prototypes. These may be a selection of new designs and colors, or fully formed brand expressions, with new website and packaging designs. You’ll need some options to test, so creating only one prototype won’t cut it.
Take the examples you’ve created and test them. Test them with your internal teams, with your customers, and with potential customers. You may not want to test all elements in an effort to achieve consensus but you do want to make sure you get usable feedback on some proposed designs. Universally positive feedback would be nice but may not be realistic. Universally negative feedback, on the other hand, may happen and should send you back to more ideation, or perhaps back to do more research if you missed the mark earlier. With the results of testing in hand, you can select the new direction and create your project plan.
Depending on the scope of the rebrand and the size of your team, your plan needs will vary. Use a project management tool or even just a set of spreadsheets to schedule the project, set a budget, assign responsibilities, outline deliverables, identify dependencies, and track progress.
With all the planning and research done, it’s time to rollout. You will need an internal rollout and an external rollout. Many people focus just on the external rollout, but the internal is just as important (and much less expensive!) to ensure your team is aligned and ready to share your new brand.
Before launching your rebrand to the public, launch internally. Let your employees know about the changes and get them excited. They should have already been part of the research phase and should have submitted ideas and already bought in to changes. The specific steps will depend on your situation but it is good to have company-wide meetings, email campaigns, and other educational material, including video, about the change. This is also a good time to create new swag for your team to get excited about sharing the new brand.
The scope of an external campaign will depend on a number of factors, including your industry and your budget. Rolling out a rebrand for a small B2B software consulting company is very different than one for a Fortune 500 consumer packaged goods company. The launch could include a large press push or mainly be about website changes and communicating to existing customers and leads. If you have agencies involved, they will help guide your strategy for the rollout.
There are many more specific steps to execute in this phase and this blog from bonafide lays out a great checklist of all the steps, from updating voicemail messages to creating new uniforms.
6. Continue to stay organized
A sales person sending out a presentation with an old logo, or worse, an old name, can harm the reputation of the new brand your organization has invested so much time and resources to build. Now that you’ve done the work and launched, it’s critical to stay consistent. Changing all of your assets to reflect a new brand and launching is only the very beginning. Consistent brands earn 23% more than non-consistent brands. So keep at it!
That consistency starts with organization and to keep a brand organized, there is no better tool than digital asset management. All assets reflecting your new brand should be in one place and accessible to the people that need them, whether it’s your internal team or external partners. A digital asset management system provides that anytime access to approved brand material for the right type of user. With a DAM, you also get insights and analytics into how your new brand is being used and by whom, which can prove the value of your rebrand efforts.
With these steps as a guide you can help ensure your rebrand stays focused and organized. If you want to learn more about digital asset management can help a rebrand or your overall marketing operations, please check out our guide to the Value of Digital Asset Management.